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Abu Dhabi preview quotes - Marussia, Toro Rosso, Mercedes & more

25 Nov 2015

The stunning Yas Marina Circuit plays host to the final round of the season, a twilight race that nevers fails to provide a thrilling spectacle. Those involved look ahead to the 2015 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Marussia

Will Stevens

"I'm really looking forward to this weekend. It was here 12 months ago that I made my F1 debut, so this track has happy memories for me and it's one I really enjoy racing at. I had a really strong race in Brazil, so I'd really like to replicate that performance on Sunday and I plan to approach the weekend in a similar fashion, focusing much more on the race than my single lap pace. Beating my team-mate is a moving target once again, with Roberto back in the car rather than Alex, but my aim is still to be the lead Manor driver going into the race, and the first to cross the line at the end of it."

Roberto Merhi

"I'm so excited to be back in the car this weekend for the season finale. As any reserve driver will tell you, I really missed the racing; it will be a long time yet before I'm ready to hang up my racing gloves for a full-time career in TV commentary! I've kept a close eye on everything the team has been doing over the past five races, so I don't think it will be too difficult to get back up to speed on Friday and see how I stand versus Will. I've missed the competitive spirit between us. The most important thing is to do the best job possible for the team on Sunday, and ensure we have a result to celebrate. It has been a long, hard season, so I want to say thank you for this opportunity and I hope I can deliver another strong performance to reward the faith the team has shown in me."

John Booth, team principal

"It is great to be back in Abu Dhabi, having missed this race last season due to our team's difficult situation. Yas Marina is a fantastic venue at which to conclude the season, and although both championships were decided some time ago, it will be a race that everyone wants to do well in before a well-deserved celebration. 

"It's great to have Roberto back in the car this weekend. He's been by our side in the role of reserve driver over the past five races, but I know he has been champing at the bit to be racing again. For Will, this race marks a year since he made his F1 debut here. After a more positive showing in Brazil, I know he will be eager to carry that momentum through to this weekend.

"Abu Dhabi marks our final race with Scuderia Ferrari as our Powertrain Partner. We have enjoyed a fantastically collaborative relationship over the past two seasons, working together very much as one team. Our Ferrari colleagues have been our teammates, like any other. We have shared a few highs and lows together, but our abiding memory will be that special day in Monaco 2014, when together we achieved our team's first championship points. 

"On a personal note, on Sunday evening I'll be bidding the F1 paddock farewell for now. I can't deny it will be a strange feeling for me; after all, we have been through so much together. But I am comfortable knowing that I will leave the team in the best shape possible, ready for its new chapter."

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz

"It's unbelievable how quickly my first season in Formula 1 has gone by! I still remember this time last year as if it was yesterday...It was a very special moment in my career too as, after the 2014 Abu Dhabi test with our friends at Infiniti Red Bull Racing, I was confirmed as a Scuderia Toro Rosso driver. It will now be good to go back there and race...

"I have some very good memories [of the season]: scoring my first ever F1 points in my first race in Australia; qualifying in P5 in front of my home crowd in Barcelona; racing from pits to points in Monaco. Okay, then there's been a bit of an unlucky streak, but we were able to overcome that and I've had some more good races lately, like Austin. I've learned so, so much this year that I can be sure I've become a better driver and I can use this experience to grow even more. This year was all about gaining experience, and that's what we've done!"

Max Verstappen

"It's a shame that it's already the last race of the season, it would be good to keep on racing for another few weeks! At least I have my simulator at home, I can race on that until the season starts again!

"I'm very happy with my first year in Formula 1. It's been a steep learning curve. We've scored some really good results, ending up very close to the podium thanks to our two P4's in Hungary and Austin! I've also had a lot of fun out on track - hopefully I can have some more this week.

"Even though [the Yas Marina Circuit] has long straights, there are also plenty of corners, which is good. The atmosphere is also special, with the harbour so close, and it will be interesting to race starting in the daylight and finishing at night. It's the perfect setting for our last day at school. If we could finish the season sixth, that would be great - so let's go for it! We will all push together, that's for sure."

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton

"The Yas Marina really is a stunning place to hold the season-ending Grand Prix. The organisers clearly spent a lot of time and effort on designing the most spectacular venue imaginable and the track is one I really enjoy driving. It’s actually a really challenging circuit. There are a couple of high speed corners but it’s mostly medium to low speed, so despite the long straights you need to set the car up with a downforce level tuned for low speed grip. It’s also a twilight race, starting late afternoon and running into the night, which is quite unusual and I imagine must be pretty cool to watch on TV. Last year, this place brought probably the most intense weekend of my life. I didn’t sleep much through nerves and not knowing what was ahead. But this time around there’s no pressure, so I’ll be well-rested and aiming to go out on a high. A lot of British fans come out to Abu Dhabi so it’s like another home crowd for me. To win for them and show how grateful I am for the fantastic support I’ve had all year would be the best way to end an incredible season."

Nico Rosberg

"I’ve had two really great weekends now in Mexico and Brazil, so I’m heading into the final race on a massive high. Abu Dhabi hasn’t always been an easy one for me. Of course, last year was probably my biggest disappointment – losing the title at the last moment with a mechanical problem. But I showed my speed there with pole position and I have good momentum behind me right now, so I’m aiming to end the season on a big positive this time around. Of course, it’s also the last race for this incredible Silver Arrow – and it deserves a spectacular send off. Everyone at the factories has done such a fantastic job one again this year. A car like this is something every driver dreams of having in their hands, so I’ll be pushing hard to make the most of it for one last time as a tribute to all their hard work. Of course, it will be close as always with Lewis and we saw a big push from Ferrari in São Paulo, so it won’t be straightforward. But I’m up for a battle and hopefully we can put on a great show for the fans to end the year."

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

"It was very satisfying to leave Brazil with another top result after a race that was far less straightforward than it might have looked. We now go to Abu Dhabi with the best possible Championship positions secured and a chance to reflect on an incredible year. We can all be extremely proud of what we have achieved in 2015. To raise the bar from 2014 was always going to be a huge challenge – but everybody at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart has taken on that challenge exceptionally well. While we celebrate a job well done this time around, however, the next challenge will be upon us before we know it. 2016 will undoubtedly provide our biggest test yet as a group. We will not be backing off – and an entertaining battle at the front between our boys for one last time in 2015 will be the ideal way to show that."

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

"After another strong showing in Brazil, a fantastic season for the team comes to a close at one of the most glamorous and spectacular venues on the calendar in Abu Dhabi. The Yas Marina circuit is a challenging track with a lot of corners around the lap and contrasting styles to each sector meaning drivers need to use all of their skill to string together a fast time. Despite the long straights that also feature it’s difficult to overtake here, so qualifying will be important. It’s a different scenario for us compared to last year as we don’t have a showdown for the Drivers’ Championship – which made this an incredibly tense weekend for everyone involved. This time around, we approach the weekend with a little less pressure and can look to enjoy the racing a bit more – but hopefully with a good battle between Lewis and Nico to sign off for the year in style. Lewis has always been very strong at this track, while Nico has been on a rich run of form over the past few races. So, the stage is set for an entertaining evening under the lights. It’s a fond farewell to the W06 Hybrid too – a truly magnificent car which has been a huge credit to the men and women who designed, built and ran it this year. We hope to give it a send-off which reflects what both the car and the team have achieved over the past 18 races."

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director

“It’s incredible to think that the 2015 season is over already: it seems a lot less than a year since we were at Abu Dhabi for the final race of 2014. With the championships decided the teams can obviously push to the maximum and our tyre choice in Abu Dhabi provides them with an interesting challenge: while the surface is very smooth, the tyres are still pushed quite hard due to the track layout, so tyre management becomes an important part of the strategy, particularly under acceleration in the traction areas, where it is very easy to spin the wheels. This is the same nomination as last year, so we’d probably expect another two-stop race, but track temperatures can be quite variable as the sun goes down and this can clearly have an effect on the tyres and therefore strategy. Just two days after the chequered flag on the 2015 season, we already begin testing for 2016: there will be a dedicated Pirelli tyre test from 9am to 9pm on Tuesday 1 December, with all the teams running one car to test some 2016 constructions and the new ‘ultrasoft’ tyre, which will carry purple markings at next year’s races.”

Williams

Valtteri Bottas

“I really like Abu Dhabi as a place. The weather is guaranteed to be good and the facilities are great. It’s the track where I had my first official Formula One test, so I have good memories there. It’s the season finale, so it would be very nice to end the season with a strong result with both of our cars like we did last season. We have good memories from last year, everyone in the team was so happy, it was a really special feeling after such a difficult season in 2013 to confirm third in the constructors’ and my fourth place in the drivers’ championship. Hopefully we can make more great memories this time.”

Felipe Massa

“Abu Dhabi last season, I think this was the best race I’ve had in my time at Williams. To be able to fight for the victory was amazing, there have been two races we were really fighting for the victory, one was Silverstone this year and the other was Abu Dhabi. We got very close to winning the race, it was the best result for the team with both cars on the podium. The race starts in the day time and finishes in the evening, it’s almost like two separate races. I really hope we can have a similar performance as we had last year there because the car was really very strong.”

Rob Smedley, head of performance engineering

“We have already secured third in the constructors’ championship which is a great achievement for the team and takes any pressure off, other than that that we put on ourselves. We aim to have a really strong race and finish the season on a high. The circuit should be suited to the characteristics of our car and we delivered a great performance last year so hope to replicate that. Abu Dhabi is always somewhat of a challenge as half of the practices are in the midday sunlight, but the important sessions are during the twilight hours. We have to divide our programme up to utilise this time efficiently and not get carried away with car handling data we obtain during the day. It is a great facility with a very international fan base and a great way to finish the season, they put on an outstanding event.”

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson

"Abu Dhabi, the last race of the season - it is unbelievable how time flies. It is very exciting to come back to Abu Dhabi, and I am looking forward to enjoying the race weekend there. This Grand Prix in the middle east is always a great event attended by lots of fans from many countries. It is a race in the desert with the start at sunset. The track itself is in perfect condition, it is very modern and has some run-off areas. As the circuit has a few long straights, engine power will be crucial. On the other hand, there are also hairpins and some slow speed corners. I am quite familiar with that track from my time in the GP2 series, and I also drove there for my first test for the Sauber F1 Team in November last year. Certainly, we will again do our best to score points - for a successful completion to the season."

Felipe Nasr

"The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is another great event, and I will enjoy driving on this track with our car for the first time. So far, I have driven there as a GP2 driver and I have also had an F1 test with Williams. I can also say, because of my family's Lebanese roots, I always receive a warm welcome and a lot of support both in the UAE and the whole of the Middle East. They make me feel I am also at home. I like the people, their traditions, their cultures and, of course, the food. On the track it will be important again to find the right set-up, and this is where we need to concentrate our focus the most on Friday. The track in the desert sands is quite spectacular with unique surroundings. All in all, the atmosphere is special. The race starts late in the afternoon, which makes it even more interesting, because of the floodlit-style à la Singapore. We will keep on with our fight for a good result."

Giampaolo Dall'Ara, Head of Track Engineering

"After coming back empty-handed from South America, the whole team looks forward to fighting hard for more points and so to close this long season on a high at Abu Dhabi. The race start at sunset and finish in the dark means the temperatures will go in the opposite direction to what we usually experience, so the drivers and engineers will have to account for this, especially in the practice sessions happening earlier in the day in much hotter conditions. The focus will be on braking performance, as well as traction optimisation. The car will need to be reactive and precise for the final sector and, at the same time, fast on the straights that dominate the earlier part of the lap. Lastly, trading off tyre performance against durability will be a challenge in the race, as Pirelli has confirmed last year's choice of soft and supersoft compounds."

McLaren

Fernando Alonso

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend represents many things for us at McLaren-Honda: the end of a challenging season and a significant learning curve; the opportunity to collect as much information as possible and continue our learning; and the start of the winter period where we are all focussed on working incredibly hard on next year's package, and seeing more progress and results from our efforts throughout this year.

"Yas Marina is always an exciting racetrack to drive on – it's one of those circuits that changes its character all the way through the lap, which makes it a lot of fun for the drivers. The spectacle of a twilight race, and feeling the atmosphere change as the light fades during the sessions over the course of the weekend is pretty incredible. Abu Dhabi is a fantastic place to end the season and we are hoping to take what we can from the weekend and enjoy it as much as possible.

"After a few difficult weekends, we will of course be pushing hard to finish the year on a positive note, but the whole team knows the work we have to do over the winter, and there's huge commitment from everyone already to start seeing results. Every session this weekend will be an opportunity to learn more and take that development into next year's car, so as usual we will continue fighting as hard as we can to the end."

Jenson Button

"It's great to be heading back to Yas Marina, not least because of the excitement and buzz that the fans bring and the incredible setting Abu Dhabi provides for a racing venue, but also because it is the end of a long and challenging year for the whole team. Although we've had some difficult weekends over the past few races, the mood back at MTC is still very upbeat, and everyone is already working hard for next year.

"It's testament to the strength of our team that we continue to come out fighting every race weekend, and Abu Dhabi will be exactly the same. Yas Marina is a tricky circuit with lots of different elements coming together: sweeping faster sections, two long back straights, and a slower-speed tight, twisty infield section at the end of the lap. It makes set-up a challenge and particularly for our package it's not well suited, but we're hopeful of a more positive performance there than we found at Interlagos.

"If we can push for some points in Abu Dhabi, it'll definitely be a boost for the team to end the season, and will reward all the efforts from every single member of the team over the past year. We already have our heads firmly on the development push over winter, so anything positive we can take from this weekend will help us start our next chapter together with even more energy. Our motivation is as strong as ever."

Eric Boullier, racing director, McLaren-Honda

"The last race of the season always offers an incredibly unique and exciting atmosphere. It's an opportunity to reflect on the season that has passed, enjoy the last racing weekend of the year, and turn our attention to the new chapter to come.

"Yas Marina is a hugely impressive facility and a superb venue to go racing at, and its twilight backdrop is a fitting way to end the season. We'll go there on the back of a challenging year, there's no doubt about that, but with the determination to finish the season on a high and provide the ever-enthusiastic fans with a fantastic weekend of racing.

"Although it is the last race of the season, our development has not stopped, and we are still bringing new parts and design elements to the car for the final grand prix. Our development is constant and we place huge importance on learning at every opportunity. All of our efforts this weekend will be beneficial to next year's car, and it's essential that we maximise the final sessions of the year, not only to end the season on a high, but to use the invaluable information we can glean from them and channel it into tangible progress over the winter period.

"It's important to thank each and every member of the McLaren-Honda team: those on the road, at the McLaren Technology Centre, in Sakura and in Milton Keynes, for their hard work, enthusiasm and dedication all year. Our energy and commitment will continue relentlessly over the winter, with our shared goal firmly in our minds: to win. Equally, thank you to our Partners, both longstanding and new, who understand our vision and the immense work going on behind the scenes to assure us of more positive results to come.

"Last but certainly not least, I'd like to express huge gratitude to our loyal fans, who have demonstrated unwavering support through challenging times, and share our optimism for a successful future ahead. We look forward to an exciting weekend against the stunning scenery of Yas Marina, and the start of an exciting next phase for McLaren-Honda."

Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer - chief officer of motorsport

"So much has happened since McLaren-Honda's new beginnings here in Abu Dhabi last year. We have come a long way since that first test, and although we have had a difficult and eventful season in 2015, the team is as united as ever.

"The amount of changes that have gone into both the car and the power units this year with such speed has been incredible. Both Woking and Sakura have been working tirelessly throughout the year, and together with the drivers, their bond has become stronger as the season progressed. I am thankful for all their hard work, and encouraged by their enthusiasm to improve further over the winter.

"Yas Marina Circuit is an entertaining event that is fitting for the final battle of the season. Our focus will be to end the season giving it our all, and to continue making improvements."

Force India

Sergio Perez

“The 2015 season has gone by so quickly, but I have lots of great memories and I’m very proud of what we have achieved. I think it’s probably been my best season in Formula One in terms of results and also the most enjoyable. We have grown a lot during the course of the year and we have had some special days, with a highlight being my podium in Russia and my home race in Mexico.

“I think Abu Dhabi is the perfect place to end the season, especially with a race under the lights. The whole venue is impressive and the track is quite a challenge from a set-up point of view. You need a car that works through the fast corners in the first sector, as well as through the slow final sector, which feels more like a twisty street circuit.

“I think we have the potential for a big result in Abu Dhabi. Things didn’t work out for me in Brazil so I’m determined to get back in the points this weekend and finish this great season on a positive note."

Nico Hulkenberg

“The final race of the season is always important because you want to finish the season well and carry the momentum into the winter months. We have already secured fifth in the championship but I want to make sure I end the season in the top ten of the drivers’ championship so there is still a lot to play for.

"Abu Dhabi is a fun place for the season finale: the venue is great and the twilight racing helps create a special atmosphere. As a track, it's not easy to get a good lap as the layout is very technical, especially in the final sector. It's quite easy to come into a corner too hot and make a mistake, and finding a good flow is a big challenge.

“Brazil was a very enjoyable weekend for me: the car felt great and we maximised every session to come away with a well-deserved result. I think we can realistically aim for a similar performance this weekend. It's been a great year for everyone in the team and we deserve to finish on a high.”

Vijay Mallya, team principal

“Heading to Abu Dhabi with fifth place in the championship already secured feels pretty good. It means we can approach the last weekend of the season free from pressure and with nothing to lose. Our focus is simply on enjoying the race and ending the season in style. Abu Dhabi will be a special race for us as it marks the 150th of our history as Force India, and we will aim to celebrate it with a strong performance on the track.

“All season I’ve been saying how proud I am of my team - particularly our development curve in the second half of the season. With 81 points from the last eight races we’ve enjoyed our best ever strike rate and we have been competitive at every race. With stable regulations for 2016, there is every reason to believe we can carry this form through the winter and into the new season. There is plenty to be excited about and a lot of positive energy in the team.

“This weekend’s race is simply another chance to demonstrate how far we have come. Our aim will be to qualify in the top ten and add a final helping of points to our tally."

Lotus

Romain Grosjean

“It’s a good track with very nice paddock facilities which in my opinion are amongst the best on the calendar. It’s also a very special Grand Prix given that it starts in the day and finishes under lights, which makes it incredible for the fans as they can see through our visors and watch how hard we are concentrating. It’s also pretty good for me as I can get up a bit later on race day! The weekend is a bit unusual as it can be difficult to work on car set-up in FP1 and FP3 as conditions are not representative of those you’ll find in qualifying and the race. This means FP2 becomes even more important for both the engineers and myself, which makes it a rather crucial session.

“There’s no point holding back in the race or over the weekend. It’s the last time the E23s will be used in race action so I’ll be looking to give my car a good send off. The engine will be turned up to eleven, I’ll be racing my heart out and I know all the guys and girls at Enstone want to see a great end to the season.”

Pastor Maldonado

“It’s always a special event and being the final race of the year makes it all the more exciting. The venue is fabulous and the facilities are the very best Formula One can offer. Even though the event is amongst the busiest, the ease with which everything happens makes it quite a relaxing one when you’re out of the car. It’s easy to get in and out of the track and the team hospitality buildings are immense. Away from the track, the people are always really welcoming, the weather is great and the place is spectacular.

“It’s a good track to drive. The first sector at the circuit stands out with Turns 2, 3 and 4 being particularly enjoyable and the final sector is pretty eye-catching, even if you do have a lot of work to do behind the wheel at this section. The event format is interesting because of half the practice sessions being during the day, when the race itself is in early evening. This means you have a little bit less data in race representative conditions, but we’ve been to Abu Dhabi many times so the engineers are pretty good at working out what to do.”

Nick Chester, technical director

“The first sector is generally medium speed with a couple of high speed corners and not too technically challenging; a reasonable level of downforce works fine here. The second sector is more power hungry with two good straights and two low speed corners - a low speed hairpin and a low speed chicane so it’s important to manage these well. The final sector is quite technical with a number of low and medium speed corners where the car needs to be well balanced and work well to achieve a good lap time. Putting all that together is key - you need a car that works well in low speed corners and be good in the long straights.”

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo

“I think it [Abu Dhabi] really was my best weekend of 2014. It wasn’t a win but I nailed qualifying, I nailed the race, I nailed the whole thing. Pace, consistency, everything was awesome and it got me from the back of the grid to fourth, so yes, in terms of pure performance, it was my best race.

“I like the last sector in particular because that turns it into an exciting track. It’s twisty and you get right up close with the walls. You also have to contend with your tyres going off because the start of the lap is so fast - by the third sector you’re really having to manage your rubber. It’s... a challenge.

”I think starting in the sun and ending in the dark is pretty cool. Actually I think the whole atmosphere of the weekend is pretty cool. Lots of Aussies make the trip, lots of Europeans and there’s a really good multicultural scene. Lots of boat parties in the marina, lots of fun. I do like Abu Dhabi.”

Daniil Kvyat

“I generally enjoy most tracks and in one way or another they all have good associations but it’s particularly the case at Yas Marina because I won the GP3 championship there. I had a good qualifying there last year. I was fifth on the grid I think but the race didn’t work out so well as I had to retire with an engine problem. Still, it’s been enjoyable. It’s a good track to drive, even if it’s one of the modern ones with the big run-off areas. It’s very technical though and it takes some time to get your head around it. Do that and you’ll get a good lap, but it’s not as easy as it looks.”

More to follow.